In case you missed it, here’s yesterday’s Dark Matter Monday stream with special guest – actor Andrew Moodie.
As always, a huge thanks to PJ, our host, and the rest of the Dark Matter panel.
Speaking of Dark Matter, I frequent the Dark Matter subreddit over on reddit and came across the following post by member LandosMustache:
[DISCUSSION] Just Finished the Series for the First Time, Here’s My Thoughts
I’m a bit late to this party, but I just binge-watched the whole Dark Matter series, and boy do I have thoughts.
Honestly, I don’t remember how I missed this when it was on air. I found it just a few weeks ago (mid 2021, for anyone reading this in the future) by some IMDB rabbit hole I went down. I figured that the whole ‘lost their memory’ bit would feel overdone and boring, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the show. Part of this is pretty simple to understand: I LOVE me some Star Wars. I LOVE me some Firefly. And, depending on which Star Trek series we’re talking about, I love me some Star Trek (as did the writers, quite obviously). Any show which combines aspects of all of those, and tosses a little Alien/Aliens in, is going to have me as a fan pretty darn quick. But my standards are gonna be high…
Now, Anthony Lemke as Three is no Han Solo…or Mal Evans…and neither is Melissa O’Neil as Two. But Three is a decent Jayne Cobb and Two is a decent Zoe Washburn, and as the two leads they could have done far worse.
They built a pretty cool world (or galaxy) for this show. Massive, powerful, semi-government corporations, in conflict with each other and the actual government, and all of them after our protagonists in one way or another, is an interesting approach which set Dark Matter apart from the standard “government exists, government bad” setup. I also liked that the spaceships, the planets, the facilities, all felt lived-in. They were dirty, things malfunctioned. It was a very Alien or Firefly way to handle sci fi, and as I may have mentioned, I love that kind of sci fi.
What I Liked:
Obviously. Serious props to the Dark Matter writers for having a Commander Data character arc without blatantly copy/pasting the Commander Data character arc (they even managed to put a new spin on the ‘emotion chip’ development).
And serious props to Zoie Palmer, who must have known that she’d be judged on the Commander Data scale, and still took the role without copy/pasting Brent Spiner.
They Balanced A Weekly Serial with a Larger Plot Arc
I had this thought when I reflected on Warehouse 13: basically, WH13 is kind of the antithesis of X-Files. With X-Files, the ‘monster of the week’ episodes were hit or miss, but the longer looks at the larger world were masterful. Warehouse 13…let’s just say that they were at their best as an ‘artifact of the week’ serial. The big villains were clumsy. The ‘devious plots’ were nonsensical.
Dark Matter pulled a Firefly, with a ‘mission of the week’ which contained elements of the bigger picture but also could focus in on an extremely immediate task which had little or nothing to do with the larger story arc. And though I’d never say that Dark Matter was better than Firefly, I’d like to point out that Dark Matter had to maintain this balance for longer.
The Show Stayed Within Itself. Barely.
One of the worst things that a show like this can do is to take independent, outlaw, hunted characters…and send them on an idealistic crusade. Thankfully Firefly didn’t fall into this trap (…because it was canceled too early…sob), even if Serenity kinda did. Call this the “Pirates of the Caribbean franchise” mistake. Only Han Solo can do this convincingly, and way too many people in the movie industry answer the question “do we really think our character is as good as Han Solo?” with “hell yeah I know what I’m doing!”
Dark Matter almost did this, and you could see that things were headed that way. There were many conversations about ‘taking on the system’, mostly by Six (Six, man…), which made me roll my eyes a bit. But even then, I appreciated that they took the approach of having the crew try to screw over the powerful, no matter who they were, instead of, say becoming generals in the Mikkei army. [Until the end, even though it DID kinda feel like the plot of Descent: Freespace – The Great War, a game which I also enjoyed back in the day. And I doubt that arrangement was supposed to be permanent.]
They also kept the general philosophy of “anyone could be an enemy at any time”, which kept the show true to itself. I also especially appreciated how the narrative arc grew organically: the big threat was first the corporations, then an all-out corporate war, then…something with aliens, instead of season-by-season Big Baddies with Lex Luthor plots (“now the galaxy is in danger”, “now the galaxy is really in danger”, “ok, we’re serious this time, the galaxy is super in danger.”). The Dwarf Star Conspiracy plot gets an Incomplete. The Android Revolution gets an Incomplete.
The Foreshadowing and Subplots Paid Off. Most of the Time.
Anyone remember Pretender, the TV show starring Michael Weiss? They had a main subplot, namely, ‘what happened to Ms. Parker’s mother??’…and never really did anything with it. Every so often a character would allude to their knowledge of what happened, and who might be involved. The show must have introduced a dozen shadowy nefarious characters who were connected to this subplot, and just sorta kept trying to make the next one more shadowy and nefarious without resolving any of the previous ones. By the time the show was canceled, Ms. Parker’s mother was somehow magic and may have passed the trait to Ms. Parker – just an out-of-left-field plot development with no foreshadow and no payoff. It was almost a relief when that show was canceled, because you could finally stop pretending to care about all that stuff when it was obvious that the writers had no idea what happened to Ms. Parker’s mother either.
Anyway, Dark Matter didn’t do that. If you saw an unanswered question or a mysterious object, you’d see it again soon with some kind of explanation and it would be handled in a way which drove the plot forward. For the most part. IMO, the show fumbled the ‘shadowy conspiracy behind One’s murder’ pretty hard. Five was also set up to be some kind of important galactic character and they never really explored it. Speaking of…
Five is a Well-Written Character
It must have been some kind of SyFy/SciFi corporate edict that every show must have an emotionally damaged but tech-savvy teenage girl who has some kind of shadowy but super-important past. Now, nobody can Joss Whedon except Joss Whedon, but Dark Matter handled this requirement much muchbetter than, say, Warehouse 13.
I really liked the character of Five, mostly due to how well the writers handled how she acted and her contribution to the crew. We all know that the easiest thing to do when you have a young female character is “make her emotional and hysterical and completely unreasonable!”, which is what Warehouse 13 did with Claudia. God I hate Claudia. Or they could go the way that Disney Star Wars took Rey, i.e., “make her angry and combative but good at everything and everyone loves her.” God I hate Rey. But I felt like Five had a personality, and acted according to that personality, and though the show started to try to make her more important than she was, they never got around to it. Personally, I liked her more as a plucky crew member than some centerpiece of a Galactic plot.
Really appreciate how they had Five carve out a role in the ensemble.
What I Disliked:
I feel like the whole point of Dark Matter was about finding morality in a gray galaxy, so there wasn’t really any need to have a guy like Six, who’s a good person who’s always a good person and always chooses the good thing to do. It’s boring, it’s pedantic, and it’s unrealistic in a show where the characters are supposed to be wavering on the line between good and bad.
And I really didn’t like how the show made him always right. Like when he turned on the crew the first time because it was the right thing to do, then he let them go because it was the right thing to do, then he helped them against the GA because it was the right thing to do, then he helped colonists declare independence from a corporation because it was the right thing to do, then rejoined the crew because it was the right thing to do. We, the audience, were clearly meant to disagree with his first decision without actually disliking him, so that the next time he said something was the right thing to do, we would listen to him. “I’m sorry I betrayed you, but it was the right thing to do”??? Even his death got me to roll my eyes.
I get that the crew needed a good angel on their shoulder, but Six’s idealism went too far. Or maybe this is just a deep dislike of self-righteous characters in science fiction…which I blame directly on Chakotay from Voyager and Doctor Crusher from TNG.
Four’s Undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder
Anyone else notice how Four see-sawed between “brooding and secretive but generally genial and engaged crew member” and “ruthless and power-hungry killer who wants nothing more than reclaiming/maintaining his throne”?
I mean, on a scale from one to Captain Janeway…Four doesn’t seem so bad. But still, from episode to episode it could be jarring.
Great of him to take the time to write up his thoughts (For the full post, head here). So I responded:
Foreshadowing and subplots. Before the series even began production, I had all of the character story arcs and backstories laid out, knew exactly where I wanted to go, and planted seeds throughout. In Episode 3 when TWO tells the Android to be careful on her EVA because they can’t get it done without her, the Android tells TWO: “Well, YOU can.” It’s a subtle inflection in her delivery that suggests an underlying intent – that isn’t revealed until Episode 9 when we find out the truth about TWO. A more subtle example is Episode 9. Following Sarah’s death, we cut back to FIVE who studies her and cocks her head in an uncertain way as though…she’s thinking. We don’t find out what thought struck her until season 3 when we realize she uploaded and stored Sarah’s consciousness after her death, giving her new life within the ship’s systems.
FIVE – FIVE was actually inspired by Cowboy Bebop’s Radical Edward, but, of course, took on a unique life of her own in large part do to Jodelle Ferland’s amazing performance.
SIX – I disagree with the argument that SIX is proven right time and again. Quite the opposite. He has the team arrested at the end of the first season and this turns out to be a big mistake (which leads, indirectly, to the death of ONE). He pushes the crew to take on the corporation’s and make a difference – and fails spectacularly in the season 2 finale. He leaves the Raza to help make a difference with the squabbling colonies and soon realizes he will not get anywhere.
Ultimately, it’s not just him. Many of our characters make very bad decisions over the course of our series.
FOUR – FOUR may seem erratic in season 3, but this is a result of him reacquiring his old memories and struggling to reconcile them with the memories he made as FOUR. He’s also got a lot more on his plate given his new role as Emperor. That said, he was always unpredictable. Witness his dealing with his old friend Akita-san.
Head on over to the Dark Matter subreddit to join in the discussion!
Well, looks like I got a little ahead of myself. We have (presumably) one final pre-pitch this Thursday before the commencement of official pitching on the small screen adaptation of that EPIC sci-fi comic book series. This one will be wild (The series, not the pitch…although the pitch is certainly wild to a certain extent).
Waiting to hear word on some contractual matters related to TimEscape after which we move on to Phase 3 in our effort to get this series picked up. Would be lovely to start writing for Jara, Rudd, Little Alice and, of course, Akemi’s favorite – Mo.
Keep thinking I should start a new spec pilot. It’s not like I don’t have ideas. But I do have paid pilots on the horizon and, to date, some truly awesome pilots aren’t gaining traction so I feel like I’d be wasting my time.
Hard Pickle Seltzer? Yes/No
Where to buy the Hard Pickle Seltzer? Cost of Brumate beverage explored! https://t.co/rUrc5GjrM8
— Joseph Mallozzi (@BaronDestructo) June 29, 2021
I am intensely curious.